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Michigan warns illegal operators after gaming machine crackdown

| By Richard Mulligan
Michigan’s authorities convicted nine individuals and seized more than 160 gaming machines in a major crackdown on illicit gambling operations across the state during 2023.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) and state authorities issued some 64 businesses with orders to cease illegal gambling in 2023. This led to 167 illegal gambling machines being removed or being taken out of operation.

As a result of MGCB investigations, and in partnership with the Michigan attorney-general’s office, nine individuals received criminal gambling convictions. In addition, 24 individuals were arraigned on illegal gambling charges.

Michigan’s campaign for gambling integrity

MGCB said the actions were part of a concerted effort to uphold the integrity of the state’s gaming industry and protect consumers. Michigan law prohibits any kind of gambling unless specifically authorised under state law. Gambling machines are only allowed within licensed casinos.

“Thanks to the vigilant supervision of the MGCB, last year agency personnel were able to target and disrupt several instances of illegal gambling activities that undermined the integrity of our legitimate, regulated gaming industry,” MGCB executive director Henry Williams said.

“With a commitment to maintaining fairness, transparency and public trust, these proactive efforts were undertaken to ensure safe, regulated gambling environments.”  

MGCB added that these machines have the potential to undermine the investments made by legitimate gaming establishments.

“Moreover, these unlawful operations often lack the necessary consumer safeguards that licensed and regulated establishments provide, leaving vulnerable individuals susceptible to unfair practices,” MGCB added in a statement.

MGCB’s gaming machine junkyard photo op

Gaming machines are destroyed at a Michigan junkyard

During 2023, MGCB issued a visual illustration of its crackdown by publishing photos of machines being destroyed at a junkyard.

As part of its work to halt illegal gaming, the MGCB and the Liquor Control Commission began a joint effort in 2022 to educate the public and business owners about illegal use of gambling machines. As a result of investigations from 2015 through July 2023, a total of 1,195 illegal machines and $470,402 were seized.

Speaking last year Michigan’s attorney-general, Dana Nessel, said: “The machines destroyed by the MGCB are the tools of criminals, cheating their neighbours of their hard-earned money as well as the state out of gaming revenues that support our schools.

“Illegal gaming operations are a danger to their communities, typically becoming local hotspots for other crimes and violence. We will continue to coordinate with the Michigan Gaming Control Board to ensure our state’s gambling laws are strictly enforced.”

Detroit casinos down in February

The three Detroit casinos reported $104.6m in monthly aggregate revenue (AGR) for February 2024. Some $104.8m was generated from table games and slots, and negative $124,853 from retail sports betting.

February 2024 table games and slot revenue decreased 0.2% when compared to February 2023 revenue. February’s monthly revenue was 11.6% higher than January 2024.

The Detroit casinos reported $13.2m in total retail sports betting handle. Total gross receipts were negative $120,142 for the month of February. Retail sports betting qualified adjusted gross receipts (QAGR) were down by $583,605 when compared to the same month last year.

Michigan online gambling operators saw an overall dip in receipts and revenue in February. The combined $218.5m in icasino gross receipts and sports betting handle was down 4.8% compared to January. The $188m taken in by online casino was the highest in state history. This broke the January record of $181.9m in gross receipts.

Last July, MGCB launched a new multi-media campaign to encourage responsible gambling among consumers. Developed in partnership with King Media, “Don’t Regret the Bet” promoted safer gambling with licensed operators in Michigan. The campaign included broadcast TV and radio, digital billboard and social media advertising.

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